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[personal profile] sweetprince
Title: Unethical Behavior In The Workplace
Author: [profile] dark_reaction
Fandom: Generation Kill
Pairing: Brad/Nate
Word Count: ~12,000
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Nate works for a company in research and development. He doesn't know how he sleeps at night. Better Off Ted AU.
Notes: A graduation present for [personal profile] ericaplease who I have known for the entirety of our college careers. I wrote this thinking it would be a quick little thing. And then it was 5000 words. And then it was 10,000 words. Much gratitude goes to [personal profile] amberlynne for audiencing, and for [personal profile] setissma for taking pity on me and agreeing to beta.


On the eight days a year Nate’s ex-wife decides she wants to be a mother, Nate sleeps at his desk. He can’t quite bear to go home to an empty house, cooking for one, and a night without bedtime stories. And while his dad would say that makes him a failed man, or the word he always uses, a “pussy,” Nate doesn’t care. There’s always more than enough work to do here. Like figuring out how he’s going to explain to accounting how half their monthly budget was spent on Ray and Walt’s attempt to create Spidey fluid (Spidey fluid that has the smell and consistency of come and got everywhere) when they were supposed to be splicing strawberry DNA for a series of non-fat no-cal no-carb no sodium albeit tasty diet foods. Or why lab six’s computer has spontaneously decided to stop running advanced statistical models and keeps generating flowery-worded religious tracts. Or how to solve the fact that Doc refuses to work with Trombley, but he’s their only tester who’s signed an NDMA saying they can light him on fire or give him Bison pheromones and he won’t sue them.

The last time his wife showed up for her yearly and nevertheless shabby parental duties—that Nate is legally bound by a court order to respect—he wound up watching Turner Classic Movies until 4:45 AM and sobbing into a tub of Dolce De Leche Ice cream while Ginger Rogers smooched Fred Astaire on It Had To Be You. And then crying some more through To Have and To Have Not. He woke up on the couch two hours later with an imprint of his cycling magazine on his face and eyes so swollen it looked like Justin had given him pink-eye again.

So he stays at his desk. If he drowns himself in reports, he doesn’t have to miss his son.

“Poke has informed me that you have no projects pending,” Brad, his boss, says from his open doorway. He steps further inside the room when Nate looks up from the Spidey-fluid report. “And yet here you are, at this absurdly late hour.”

Nate sighs, and rubs at the bridge of his nose. “There was more work than I thought.”

“Bullshit, your ex-wife is in town.”

Nate blinks at him. “Does everybody know about that?”

Brad ignores the comment. “Any thought for a late meal?”

The clock on the wall says that it’s 10:22 PM, but it’s not a surprise that Brad’s still here. One time, down in the labs, Nate overheard Walt telling Ray that he’d never noticed Brad leave the office. Ray’s answer was that Brad didn’t have an apartment, that he possibly didn’t even sleep. Something Nate had even wondered about himself. He’s there first thing in the morning and he’s always the last to leave. Despite that, Brad looks perfectly pristine in a suit that probably cost as much as a semester’s tuition for his son’s private school. He didn’t know Brad did late night snacks, or anything else that mere mortals indulged in.

Nate’s stomach growls, and Brad’s impassive face takes on the sheen of a smirk. “Why not?”

“Burgers?”

“Sounds good.”

*

They look ridiculous in the all night diner chock full of club kids and stoners—two adult males in business attire—ordering cheese fries, beer, and digging into their burgers like it’s niman ranch. Brad orders a strawberry milkshake extra thick and devotes himself to slurping it up the straw. Nate feels a sudden wash of affection and wonders if this is what it feels like to be a woman. He sighs and morosely shoves a cheese fry into his mouth.

The waitress, a young college student whose nametag unfortunately reads Barbie, comes by to check on them. She’s been overly friendly all night. Women tend to get that way around Brad because they can’t tell how idiosyncratic he is by looking at his face. Nate thinks she’s kind of endearing, even as she lingers too long and asks questions about things he’d rather not think about, like why he ever wanted to work for a giant corporation that may be causing global destabilization in order to satisfy shareholders.

Barbie tries to tell a joke as she’s refilling Brad’s water glass and Brad interrupts, “Your attempts at flirting are sophomoric and unwelcome.”

She starts, water sloshing all over herself. Brad simply stares at her evenly, waiting for her to collect herself and leave. Her cheeks flame up with color and Nate realizes once he probably would’ve felt horribly embarrassed, but now he just finds Brad’s heinousness amusing. He gives the poor girl a smile and mentally adds another ten percent into her tip. Ray has this story about Brad at a bar when the entire department was out celebrating a product launch. Apparently some poor slip of a thing bought Brad a drink and he lit her (or maybe it was the drink) on fire. Nate doesn’t know if that’s true, but a small part of him believes it’s possible.

“Do you date?” Nate asks, because he’s tired and he misses his son and cheese fries and beer could loosen anybody’s tongue.

“Date?” Brad asks like the word’s not part of his vernacular. “No, I have meaningless sex on a fairly regular basis. I find it quite satisfying.”

Nate narrows his eyes. “I can never tell when you’re being sarcastic.”

Brad pulls a face. “Why would I be sarcastic?”

Nate groans internally.

*

Ray and Walt are currently attempting to come up with a soap that washes off tattoos. So far they haven’t been able to stabilize it enough so that it doesn’t wash off skin with it.

“There is no way I’m going to be able to test this on humans, Homes,” Poke tells him, shaking his head as Ray runs around the lab shrieking, Walt chasing him with a fire extinguisher.

“Don’t be so negative,” Nate replies, leading Poke back out of the lab. “They’ll figure it out eventually.”

“You don’t get it, bossman,” Poke says. “How are we ever going to get volunteers?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’d have to be people with tattoos who regret their tattoos. And what are we going to say? You hate your tattoo, so try this soap that might leave you with even more regrettable scars? Or if we can’t find people who have tattoos who think they’re regrettable, we’ll have to offer to tattoo participants, just so that we can remove them. And what person would agree to that?”

Nate sighs and pushes the button for the elevator a little harder than necessary. “A psycho.”

Poke nods and then gives Nate a bright look. “Hey, but there’s always Trombley.”

Nate shoots him a dark look. The elevator doors open and they both step inside, staring perfunctorily at the ceiling in silence.

After a moment, Poke says, “Rudy from accounting was here late last night. He said he saw you sleeping in your office again. I know Justin is with Meg, but I thought we’d resolved not to sleep in the office anymore?”

“What’s Rudy from accounting doing spying on me?”

Poke dodges the question. “Also, he says you went out with Brad for a quick bite.” He raises his brows.

Nate narrows his eyes. “So?”

Poke snorts. “Eh, nothing.” The elevator doors open. Brad stands in front of them, saving Nate from further questions.

“Ah, Nate,” Brad says, he steps into the elevator and hands Nate a stack of folders. “I need you to look at these. Where are we on the ink pigment removing soap?”

Poke shoots Nate a look and Nate blows out a breath. “We’re not going to make deadline.”

Brad lifts a brow. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, currently the pigment removing soap removes…well, everything.”

Brad blinks. “And?” Poke guffaws and barely hides it behind a cough.

And people want to remove their tattoos without removing their skin?”

“I don’t understand. People want to remove their tattoos. We have a solution.”

Poke shakes with silent laughter. Nate ignores him. “You don’t have a tattoo, do you?”

“I do have a tattoo. But only a complete idiot gets a tattoo that he’s going to regret. Serves them right.”

“How are we going to market that? ‘You hate your tattoo and we know how to fix it? It comes with permanent scarring, intense pain, and possible nerve damage, but serves you right?’”

The elevator doors open and Brad goes to get off. He looks back over his shoulder. “Why not?”

The doors close and Poke is practically rolling on the floor from laughter. “‘Why not?’ Your face, G, priceless!” he says, between cackles.

*

In the cafeteria, Nate sits playing with the little metal seal on his bottle of Pellegrino. Ray and Walt slide their trays onto the table across from them.

“Yo, Ficklinator!” Ray says cheerily.

Nate stares at him. “Please don’t call me that.”

“Natinator?” Ray tries again.

“No,” he replies firmly. “What do you need?”

“Are you spacing out because your hosebitch-ex has your son?”

“I believe the phrase is hosebeast, and no. I'm thinking about work.”

“Hosebitch is better.”

Nate rolls his eyes.

Walt looks back and forth between them. “What Ray is inadequately attempting to ask is, 'Are you all right?'”

“I’m perfectly fine. It’s only eight days.” Walt and Ray don’t look convinced. “Guys! I’m a big boy.”

Ray snorts and knocks Walt’s shoulder. “That’s what Connie in acquisitions says.”

Nate clears his throat. Walt drops his eyes to his tray and gets very busy with his Waldorf salad.

In the sudden silence, Ray turns to Walt. “That was inappropriate, wasn’t it?”

Walt purses his lips and nods. He puts a hand in front of his mouth like Nate can’t hear him and says, “But not more so than your usual level of inappropriate.”

Ray pumps his fist. “Booyah!”

Nate shakes his head fondly and gets to his feet. “Enjoy your lunch, gentlemen. I’ve got to get back to work.”

“See ya! Don’t weep in your office tonight. The hosebitch ain’t worth it,” Ray shouts after him.

Nate cringes. The entire cafeteria turns to look at him as he’s making his way to the trash.

*

“You are still here,” Brad says, taking up his doorway. “I believe Ray told you, very loudly and in front of multiple witnesses, to go home tonight.”

It’s 9:57 PM. Nate knows this because this night is going so slowly he’s afraid that Ray and Walt might’ve turned on the chronoslippage device again.

“We’ve been over this. There’s too much work, and then all the setbacks with pigment-removing soap. I really can’t afford to get behind.”

“Hmm.” Brad doesn’t look like he believes a word. “Late night Chinese then?”

“I…” Nate looks down at the game of spider solitaire he was playing on his computer and says, “Sure.”

Brad drives a Spyker C8. It’s one of the most beautiful cars Nate has ever seen. He can feel his testosterone spike just from looking at it. Brad looks mildly amused.

He says, “Go ahead, you can touch it.”

Nate leans forwards and runs careful hands over the hood. “Jesus. The 12S? Is this car street legal?”

Brad shrugs. “Not really, I had it built custom. It’s the 620 PS engine.” He gestures Nate over to the passenger side as the doors unlock with a click.

“What does that get you? 350 km/h?” Nate asks as he gets in and stares at the interior in wonder. The seats are black leather, and it smells just like Brad does.

Brad grins, sticking the key in the ignition. “400.”

“Jesus. I think I just came.”

Brad gives him a look he can’t interpret and then pulls out of his reserved space. He drives them across town to a little family-owned Chinese restaurant. He parks the car on the street and Nate stares at him.

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

Brad gives him that wolfish grin that made 72% of workers respond on the employee satisfaction survey that Brad makes them pee themselves out of fear. “Let them try to steal my car.”

“Well, all right then.”

He follows Brad inside and one of the waiters greets them with, “Mr. Brad, you are back!”

Nate gives him a sidelong glance. “Here often?”

Brad ignores him and sits at a window table. “Their sesame chicken is the best I’ve ever had.”

“Well then, order some up,” he says as he pulls out a chair.

The waiter sets two Tsingtaos down and looks at them expectantly. Brad orders half the menu and waiter scribbles it down unsurprised. Nate thinks it might be enough to feed a small village, but when it comes he finds he can’t stop stuffing himself. He’s eating past the point where he’s hungry, it’s so good.

“This is heaven. I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat Chinese food anywhere else ever again.”

Brad’s face is undeniably smug. Nate shakes his head. “You should never have said that you had a tattoo in front of Poke.”

“Yeah?” Brad asks, dipping his finger into the sweet sour and sauce, grinning at Nate’s face as he sticks it into his mouth.

“Yeah. Ray’s started a pool on what and where it is. So far his supposition that you’ve got ‘welcome aboard’ tattooed to your dick has the most bets.”

Brad shrugs. “Could be.”

Nate laughs incredulously. “You don’t care if they hear about that upstairs? What if they want you to test out the ink-removal soap?”

Brad looks unconcerned. Nate has no idea why. Upstairs would absolutely do that, even to the head of a department like Brad. “I’ll fight that battle when it comes.”

Nate stays silent for a long moment and then he says, “You're very strange.”

“Mmm, thank you.”

Nate didn’t exactly mean it as a compliment, but he knows better than to say as much. Brad is unflappable. He holds his hand up to order another round and Nate takes the moment to study him. He doesn’t know why Brad’s reaching out to him. They’ve always gotten along, but he knows like eight things about Brad. He wears Burberry suits, collects cuff links, despises arugula, paces when he’s on the phone, hates the feel of newsprint between his fingers, listens to some exceptionally bad 80s hair metal, has no patience for useless or incompetent people, and now, has a tattoo. Yeah, that’s exactly eight.

Sometimes he doesn’t even understand what he’s feeling around him. When he first started he never thought he would like Brad and his eccentricities. He’d found the terror Brad inspired in his underlings off-putting and his decisions downright maddening. But when upstairs had told him Patterson was forming a whole new experimental department and had specifically asked for Nate, he hadn’t gone. Hadn’t even considered it, really.

*

Nate is exhausted. He went home to shower and change, but he came right back again after a breakfast of bright blue fun flavor Yoplait usually reserved for Justin’s lunch. What? It was going to go bad if he didn’t eat it. He gets back to the office to find the lab has exploded just like the time that Ray switched around the labels on the pharmaceuticals and they sent 10,000 kilograms of experimental baby analgesics to another lab facility instead of the psychedelics they requested for use in studies. Babies on psilocybin, what a nightmare.

“What’s going on?” he says, tugging on his shirt cuffs. He can feel a raging headache forming and he lays an unusually severe expression on Ray where he sits in the corner sulking, his skin bright purple. Walt looks triumphantly smug as he pipettes a substance into a test tube.

“You’re only allowed one office affair,” Ray tells him, arms crossed.

“What?”

“One office affair, that’s all you get. Walt already used his,” Ray adds and swivels his chair around to present Walt his back.

“Wait, wait, what?”

“Ray is upset that I had a date with Jeanie Holloway in the cancer lab last night.”

“I’m not sure what that…” Nate stops up short. “You had a date in the cancer lab?”

Walt looks up from his test tube and groans. “No, Jeanie who works in the cancer lab. Why would you ever think I had a date in a cancer lab?”

“I don’t—” Nate breaks off and shakes his head. He directs at Ray a frustrated: “What are you upset about?”

Ray snorts and rubs at his distinctly purple nose. “Walt had an office liaison last year. You only get one. Them’s the rules. You can’t just go breaking them because you feel like it.”

He thinks the conversation slid out on a hairpin turn somewhere and is now fishtailing in a blackout zone because he has no clue what’s going on. “I don’t understand. You’re not upset that you’re purple?”

Ray perks up. “Oh, that shit’s kind of baller actually.” He slides his swivel chair over to a lab table. “See, we’ve found a chemical that interacts with the dead layer of the epidermis and turns people a nice shade of pansy purple.”

“Yes, I can see the many uses of that.”

“Halloween costumes, shortbus, or like the Blue Man Group. They won’t have to paint themselves all up and shit. They can just pour a little chemical on and hey presto chango pansy purple.”

“Can you turn blue then?” Nate asks, head cocked.

“No, but neither can Walt’s stupid cancer girlfriend.”

“You’re just jealous because you wanted her!” Walt shouts back. Ray has already worked himself up into high dudgeon and he sallies back with several colorful insults. Nate doesn’t even know what a ‘waffle-shaped ball-taint’ would look like.

He sighs, thumbing the bridge of his nose. He walks to a cabinet full of medicines and carefully marked chemicals. “Do we have any baby analgesic left?”

Ray stops shouting at Walt and turns to look at Nate. “Uh probably? But after the psych lab sent all their stuff back, I’m not sure what’s like…Tylenol and what’s, y’know, shrooms.”

“That’s just great, Ray,” Nate sighs. “What are you supposed to be doing again?”

“Uh…we were waiting for you to tell us that.”

Nate throws up his hands and leaves. He’s phoning this day in as officially crap.

*

He gets a summons from Brad at ten after one. The cafeteria had buffalo chicken pizza, just about the only thing they couldn’t screw up, and he was just about to bite into a piece when his blackberry buzzed.

Odd noises come from Brad’s office. He’s unsure what he could be walking into exactly. A failed prototype from cybernetics destroying Brad’s office. The psycho blue jays that were cross-cloned with eight different species and wound up with scales, a mouth, and four eyes flying around. Experience has demonstrated that it could be anything. He doesn’t bother to knock. The door opens under his hand and reveals Brad sparring in a loose gi that has fallen open to reveal hard pectoral muscles. Nate’s entrance provides a distraction for his opponent and Brad punches him in the head and then throws him into the wall. Well, that was unexpected.

Brad turns to the door while the other guy is stumbling dazedly around. “Ah, Nate, just who I wanted to see.”

“Uh, yes?” Nate is aware that he is staring at Brad’s chest. And his abs, and the grooves in his hips that disappear into low-riding pants. He’s too tired to pretend anything else.

Brad turns to his felled sparring partner and says, “You can leave.”

Nate has to stand back as the poor guy weaves toward the door. He catches his hand on Nate’s lapel just before exiting and says, “Run for your life.”

Nate clears his throat and disentangles the guy’s grip, smoothing the rent fabric of his lapel with a practiced hand. “I’ll be just fine, thank you.”

He hears what sounds suspiciously like a chuckle from Brad’s end of the room. “What’d you need?” he asks as Brad downs a water bottle.

Brad pulls his mouth off the lip of the bottle with a pop. “What’s going on in the lab?”

Nate says the first thing that comes to mind. “Full body dye.”

Brad furrows his brows. “And,” Nate leaps to add, “AND the self-cutting fabric we were working on.”

Brad gets a faraway look. “Perhaps you can find a way to full-body dye the fabric.” He starts disrobing right there.

Nate clears his throat. “Yes, I’m sure such a thing is possible.” Brad turns around and throws the top half of his gi into a hamper in the closet. And Nate finally gets to see the tattoo. It’s huge, a bright wash of red. Nate wants to touch it, see if the skin feels different. Jesus Christ. Losing his son for eight freakin’ days is causing him to completely lose his mind. “I’ll be going then.”

Run for your life indeed.

*

Nate’s woken up from a sound sleep by a cursory knock at his door. He raises his head from his desk to find Brad standing, yet again, in the doorway. He blinks and peels a memo off his cheek.

“I’ll get right on it,” he says sleepily.

Brad shakes his head. “Pizza and beer.” He turns right around and walks out.

“Huh?”

Brad calls back a ways down the hall, “And no you won’t. If you continue being this efficient, the company is going to start firing people as redundancies.”

Nate groans.

“Hurry up, I’m thinking the works and an ice cold IPA.” It’s only then that Nate realizes Brad meant for Nate to follow him.

*

Nate decides to pay for the pizza and pitcher they ordered, but when Brad asks for the check he tells the waiter, “If you hand him the bill, you won’t get a tip.”

The waiter shoots Nate a dark look and nods.

“Brad!” Nate flushes. “I’m never going to be able to come here again.”

“Only with me.”

Something about the way he says it makes Nate stare at him. The waiter shoves the bill into Brad’s hands before Nate can ask and Brad’s forking over a platinum card without even looking at it. When the waiter brings his card back, he signs with an impressive flick and then sticks his wallet back into the inside pocket of his suit.

“Coming?” he asks, getting to his feet.

Nate follows obediently. Brad takes him back to his house. He doesn’t even bother to ask how Brad knows where he lives, just sighs, when Brad pulls up in front of his house. He gets out of the car. He doesn’t have anything with him besides his keys and his wallet, because he left his briefcase and all his pending work back at the office.

He registers that Brad gets out behind him, following him up the steps. Nate unlocks the door and turns around to say, “Do you want to come in?”

But he doesn’t get that far. Brad places a palm on his chest and gently shoves him into his darkened house. The door swings shut behind them both and Nate knows what’s happening here. He knows like he knows where his nose is on his face, but it still comes as a surprise when Brad’s mouth descends over his.

Brad’s never been here, but he navigates Nate’s furniture expertly, pushing him up against the only patch of wall that isn’t covered with finger paintings and craft projects and pictures of him with his son at Six Flags. Nate strains upwards to meet Brad’s mouth, moaning as Brad gets a thigh between his legs.

“When was the last time?” Brad says, pulling his shirt from his pants and unworking the buttons.

“I’m a single dad.” Nate catches Brad’s face between his palm and kisses him again, mouth skating over Brad’s. Brad deepens the kiss, hands clutching at Nate’s open shirt. He flicks their tongues and then catches Nate’s, sucking on the tip. Nate shudders and tears his mouth away, thumb running over the beginning of stubble on Brad’s cheek. “Have you ever…with a man?”

“No,” Brad says shortly. “I’ve fucked women,” he says shortly, and Nate is about to retort when Brad’s hand slides around his body, over his ass, pressing up and in so that all that separates Brad from breaching that tight ring of muscle are two layers of fabric. “Here.”

Nate squeezes his eyes shut tight so he doesn’t have to see any evidence of his kid as he pushes back against Brad’s hand. Brad chuckles, he nuzzles along Nate’s collarbone. “It’s not as difficult as you might think. You eat her out, once, twice, so that she’s all warm and pliant, and then you get her slicked up, and even though she’s nervous, you keep telling her it’s going to be fine. And then she’s letting you slide a finger in, and one finger becomes two, and you’re at just the right angle to thumb her clit.” He punctuates his statement by scraping his teeth over Nate’s pulse. “Soon she’s telling you she didn’t know it could feel like this, rocking against your hand as you work her clit some more, and just when you’ve wrung another orgasm out of her, she lets you inside where she’s so warm and tight.”

Nate drops his head back against the wall and says hoarsely, “I’m not a woman.”

“You’re not,” Brad agrees, amused.

Nate has lost his mind. That has got to be the reason he says: “You can still fuck me.”

They destroy about a thousand dollars worth of designer clothing getting undressed. Brad steps on a toy transformer and curses, and Nate laughs. Brad silences him by drawing him in close for another kiss. And then he’s walking Nate back into his living room and up the stairs. And then it’s a race, urgent hands and breaths mingling together. They get caught, making out, right in front of Nate’s bedroom door. Brad’s teeth scrape over Nate’s lower lip and Nate gets his hand inside Brad’s pants, fingers curling around Brad’s dick in retaliation.

Brad pulls his mouth away as Nate strokes him, shuddering. He’s got his palm braced against the wall and his harsh breaths drift over Nate’s face. Nate rubs at the head and feels precome spurt out, slicking his thumb. Brad catches his wrist, stilling his motion. “Wait, wait, wanna be inside you.”

Nate swallows. He thinks of himself, spread out over his bed, Brad above him and feels his dick harden. Brad gets them both out of their remain clothing and then he’s kissing Nate again, tipping him back onto his bed. They haven’t bothered with lights and it’s dim in the room, and Nate’s glad of it. Brad can’t see how flushed his skin is or how badly he’s struggling to hold himself together.

By the time Brad finally pushes inside after fingering Nate open, Nate is straining for it. Brad curses, stuttering to a halt, like he’s going to lose it. He’s got one hand on Nate’s thigh, holding Nate open and he tightens it, knuckles going white. Nate squirms, feeling how impaled he is on Brad’s dick. He arches his back and then Brad is sliding all the way inside almost before he’s ready for it. This is not sex like he’s ever experienced it.

He feels his heartbeat pounding in his head. Brad groans, leaning his weight onto one hand, bending Nate practically in half. He can see Brad’s grimace of concentration, even in the darkness. He draws Brad down to kiss him, tonguing the sensitive inner flesh of Brad’s mouth even as Brad’s hips snap upwards, driving himself into Nate.

It’s good. But it isn’t enough. Nate reaches between them, wrapping his fist around his dick. His knuckles brush over Brad’s abdomen, solid muscle from throwing jujitsu instructors around his office like they were toys. He tightens unconsciously around Brad and his hips stutter, forehead dropping to rest on Nate’s collarbone. Nate does it again, this time on purpose, enjoying the way Brad’s breath is punched out of him in rush.

Brad comes first. He trembles and curses. Nate grins a little, watching Brad’s face screwed up in pleasure. It’s the same face he wears when a project has gone to the shitter and he’s royally pissed off. Nate continues to stroke himself, even as Brad stops moving, hovering half in and half out of Nate. He comes with a muttered, "Fuck." Brad lingers for a moment, breathing hard. After a moment of punctuated stillness, he pulls out slowly. He gets to his feet and goes to the en suite. Nate feels hot and achy, sore everywhere from the small of his back to his calves.

Brad comes back out, head turned towards the door and Nate shakes his head, rolling over in the bed, completely disregarding the mess. He nearly jumps out of his skin when Brad slides in behind him.

Brad chuckles. “Can’t have you sneaking back to the office while my back is turned.”

“Asshole.”

*

Nate wakes up the next morning at 7:53 and Brad is gone. He wallows in bed for a while, wondering at the damage they did to the house. He waits exactly four minutes and then goes downstairs in his bathrobe to inspect the chaos. It’s spotless. Not a toy or a book out of place. He finds a completely catered breakfast on his dining room table. More food than one person could possibly eat. More food than ten people could possibly eat. Piles of cut fruit, baskets full of bread, there’s even a vase overflowing with fresh-cut flowers in the center. He finds a note from a Good Eats Catering to a Mr. Colbert sitting on a perfect bone china plate saying that his request was filled to the letter.

“You’re such a freak, Brad,” Nate says fondly to the empty room. He picks up a muffin, spears a piece of bacon on a fork, and then heads back upstairs to shower.

*

Nate shows up to work a few minutes after nine and knows there’s a bounce in his step. He walks by Poke’s cubicle and Poke shakes his head at him. “You’ve pulled out the bright blue tie, homeboy, you must be in an excellent mood.”

Nate leans forward on Poke’s cubicle with a grin. He takes a breath and then lets it out, just enjoying the way it feels to breathe. “Yup. Just spoke to Justin. He’s enjoying New York City, but he says he misses me terribly.” He doesn’t bother saying he got laid. Poke’s already like his great aunt Milda who knew everything he tried to hide just by looking at him, he’s not going to give Poke any help in figuring him out.

Poke leans back in his desk chair. “Ah, so you don’t have to be jealous of the hosebitch.”

“Beast.”

“What?”

Nate rolls his shoulders. “Nevermind. Not that I would ever stoop that low. I know that all children have a very special bond with their mothers.”

Poke raises his brows. “Sure, whatever you say.”

Nate sighs and heads off to the lab. Shut it, Great Aunt Milda.

*

Ray and Walt are working on the prototype for a pair of shoes that will make the wearer into an excellent dancer. They pulled Stafford, apparently the only person in the entire company who knows how to move, from IT to dance hip hop in a special VR suit.

“We’re programming the computer with a database of moves,” Walt explains, gesturing to a monitor bank. “After that we have to program the corresponding soundbytes so that the shoes don’t have you doing the whip to Alicia Keys.”

“Huh,” Nate says, watching Stafford break dance between lab tables. “You’re doing great.”

“Thanks, man,” Stafford says breathlessly, executing a little twirl.

Walt snorts. “We had Ray doing the dancing originally when we were beta testing the shoes’ memory.”

Ray looks up from another computer monitor. “I rumba very well thank you!”

“Quick quick slow is the rumba!” Walt replies testily. “I don’t know what you were doing. The cerebral palsy dance of shame, maybe.”

Ray gasps, feigning shock. “Walt, that’s not PC.”

Walt shoots a beleaguered glance at Nate. “And yet, so accurate.”

*

He stops by Brad’s office after lunch, dumping off four reports. Brad is taking a conference call, tossing a tennis ball up and down, clearly bored out of his mind. He’s wearing a grey suit that really brings out the blue in his eyes. He catches Nate’s gaze and asks him to wait with a lifted finger. Nate blows out a breath, and takes a seat in the chair across Brad’s desk.

“It’s just that this really has the potential to change the entire market,” a voice protests out of the speaker.

“Yeah, Schwetje, I’m listening to you, and the answer is still a no.”

“You can’t cockblock me on this, Colbert! This is fucking bullshit.”

Nate clears his throat and watches Brad’s face resolve into a frown. “Enjoy your blue balls, sweetheart,” he says, and hangs up with obvious joy. He looks at Nate and then down at the reports Nate set on his desk. “You know, sleeping with you was supposed to make you less efficient, not more.”

“Oh? I was supposed to be so overcome, I’d be unable to think about anything besides you and your magnificent cock?”

Brad grins. “Something like that.” He clears his throat and gestures to his laptop. “Come here, I have some things I want you to look at.”

Nate gets up to go around the desk. Brad’s got opentable up on the screen, a newly confirmed reservation at 8 PM for 2 at North Pond staring at him. “Brad, we—” He’s cut off when Brad slings an arm around his waist, pulling him down onto Brad’s lap.

“Whatever you were going to say, don’t,” Brad says, and leans in to lick a line down from Nate’s ear with the point of his tongue. Nate shudders, leaning back into Brad. Jesus Christ, he hadn’t locked the door behind him. Anybody could walk through. He doesn’t fight or even protest when Brad runs his hand down Nate’s front, stopping at his fly.

When Brad slides his hand in, Nate’s already hard. He pushes his fingers up behind Nate’s balls, stroking over his perineum. “I’ve been doing some research.”

“You’ve been researching gay sex?” Nate breathes.

“Yes.”

He drags his hand back up to wrap around Nate’s dick, pulling him free of his pants and beginning to jack him slowly. Nate shifts on Brad’s lap, grinding against the beginnings of Brad’s hard-on. He smiles when Brad exhales slowly. Nate doesn’t know why he likes this, thighs spread over Brad’s, completely at his mercy. Part of him feels like he should find the entire thing silly. He ignores that part of himself, clutching at the arm rests of Brad’s chair, and turning his head to catch Brad’s mouth in a kiss. He takes Brad’s mouth, catching Brad’s lower lip between his teeth and eliciting a full body shiver. Brad keeps on stroking him, thumb sliding over the crown of Nate’s dick on every upward pull.

Nate grinds into him deliberately, widening his thighs further and slumping down against Brad’s chest. It’s easier to kiss him this way, sloppy and sprawled out. If anybody were to walk in now, they’d think he was an undignified slut. He thinks that should bother him more. Brad pulls his mouth away slowly, lips and chin reddened from sloppy kisses. He lets out a breathless curse and reaches forward to fumble at the top drawer of his desk, hand stilling on Nate’s dick.

Nate doesn’t mind. Brad clearly has a plan. He turns his attention to Brad’s earlobe, sucking and worrying the flesh between his teeth. He slides his tongue into the little hollow where the hinge of Brad’s jaw meets his skull and is rewarded with Brad’s hips jerking up against his ass. Nate smiles, nuzzling the spot, pulling back to blow on the soft skin while Brad struggles with whatever’s in his desk.

He does it again, and Brad stills beneath him, muscles tensed up. “Jesus, Nate, I can’t…” he cuts himself off. “Let me fuck you.”

Nate nods, squeezing his eyes shut tight. He pushes his trousers down his hips, glad he dispensed with underwear today. Brad manages to get his fingers slicked up one handed, and then he’s pushing one into Nate, stopping just inside to crook his fingers. Nate jolts, fingers going white knuckled on the armrests.

“That’s your prostate,” Brad says, nosing Nate’s throat.

“Yes, thank you, I’ve been to the proctologist.” He bites at the corner of his lip, trying to stop the gasping breaths that are threatening to spill forth.

Brad slides in another finger. “You really are horribly unromantic.”

“This from a person who thought medicare should be abolished and the elderly should just be put out in the woods to die.”

Brad pushes on his prostate again, scissoring his fingers. “Old people get old. They’re supposed to die. Why should the rest of us feel guilty and prolong the inevitable?”

Nate laughs, unable to help himself, and then moans, because the motion drives him harder down onto Brad’s two fingers. He can feel the ridge of Brad’s cock riding between his ass cheeks. “Quit…fucking around, I have to be at a meeting in thirty minutes.”

“But you’re always remonstrating your team about how important it is to take your time,” Brad replies, muffled into Nate’s shoulder. He brushes over Nate’s prostate again. But then he shifts under Nate, working his zipper down with shaky hands, pushing into Nate and just holding him there, the head of his cock stretching Nate open. Nate inhales sharply, feeling the burning stretch. He’s still sore from last night.

It looks like Brad has all the intention in the world of running the show and taking things slow. But Nate really does have to be somewhere and this is getting ridiculous. If they drag it out they’re just asking for somebody to stumble upon them. He levers himself downward, Brad’s length sliding all the way inside while Brad chokes, struggling to remain in control. But they’re running off Nate’s game plan now, and he raises his hips up and then down, riding Brad in earnest. Brad drops his forehead to the back of Nate’s neck, his hands coming to rest over Nate’s own on the armrests, and Nate smiles, sliding back down on Brad’s dick with a punishing twist.

He finds the right angle so that Brad’s dick scrapes over his prostate with every downward thrust. He feels Brad’s muttered exhalations off the back of his neck and speeds up. Brad’s close, he can tell. He feels it in the tension in Brad’s body, the way his palms close over Nate’s.

“Not gonna come first this time,” Brad tells him, voice ragged. He wraps a hand back around Nate’s dick, jacking him in tempo with Nate’s pace up and down on his cock.

Nate nearly swallows his own tongue, spine arching away from Brad’s body. It’s too much, nailing himself on Brad’s dick and the inexorable grip around his own. He comes with his teeth dug so far into his lip he breaks the skin. He’s not sure how he manages to stay upright in the chair. Brad only pushes up into his body a few more times before coming himself with a strangled epithet that sounds vaguely like Nate’s name.

*

They’re straightening up, Nate rebuttoning his shirt and Brad redoing his cufflinks. Nate tries not to wonder why Brad has an industrial cleaning kit in his office. He probably watches too much Dexter. “We fucked without a condom,” he says, matter of fact.

“Yes, an unforgivable oversight,” Brad sighs, pulling open his closet and staring at himself in the mirror hanging there, making sure his suit is perfect. He rearranges the knot on his tie. “But you’re a single dad, and I get tested every three months. I’m clean.”

Nate stares at him incredulous. How much sex is Brad having that he needs to get tested every three months and with who! Brad looks at his face and says, “You can ask Ray for the results. I tell him to throw them away, but I’m pretty sure that pervy fuck keeps them.”

“You have Ray do your STD panel?” Nate replies. “I don’t even know why I’m surprised.”

The door bursts open just as Brad’s about to respond. A battered looking Walt spies Nate and sighs in relief, slumping in the doorway. “Oh thank god, you’re here! The shoes have a mind of their own. Stafford lost control and we’ve been chasing him all over the building for the last hour. He says he hasn’t gone to the bathroom in hours and—” Walt cuts himself off to duck as Stafford bounds past Brad’s office, screaming bloody murder as the shoes vault him over desks and up the walls, all the while cheerily river dancing.

Nate considers braining himself on the doorframe. Why can’t this job ever be easy?

*

He goes to North Pond with Brad even though he originally wasn’t planning to because it’s one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. After the hip hop shoe debacle, he damn well needs a drink. He’s inspecting the wine list when the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song goes off in his pocket. Brad raises his brows and Nate flicks him off while accepting the call with his other hand.

“Justin, what’s up?”

“It’s okay, Dad,” Justin replies. “I broke my arm today and Mom said I could call you after the x-rays.”

“You broke your arm!” Nate replies, voice dangerously close to a shout. Brad sets his menu down, a question on his face. Nate shakes his head. “Are you okay? What happened.”

“I was playing with the big boys!”

Nate sighs. His kid sounds so triumphant. He supposes that means his arm isn’t mangled for life. “Put your mother on the phone, please.”

There’s some fumbling about and then a cool feminine voice on the other end of the line. “Hello, Nate.”

“Meg, hi,” Nate replies, “What happened?”

“He fell off the jungle gym.”

“Christ, Meg, you’re supposed to watch him.”

“I was watching him. It’s just a greenstick break. They had him in and out of the emergency room and now we’re going for cakebatter ice cream at Coldstone. Everything’s fine.”

Nate wants to shout that he’s been taking care of Justin for the last six years—seeing him through playgrounds, amusement parks, and soccer games, even the yearly scholastic book sale—without a single sprain or bent-back finger. He doesn’t say anything like that, because there’s no reasoning with Meg. It will only start a fight and upset Justin.

Meg seems to sense his capitulation. “You want to talk to him before we hang up?”

Nate massages the bridge of his nose. “Yes.”

“Hi again, Dad,” Justin chirps.

“Hi buddy, does it hurt?”

“A little, but I didn’t even cry when they reset the bone. The nurse gave me a lollypop for being brave, but I told her I didn’t need any incentives to be good.”

Nate laughs to hear his own language parroted back at him. “Well I’m glad to hear that. You give me a call if anything changes, okay?”

“Okidoki.” The phone clicks off before he can say anything else. He sighs, staring at the blank screen. After a moment he shoves his phone back into his pocket.

“Sorry about that,” he tells Brad, picking up the menu again.

Brad asks, “Everything all right?”

“He fell off the jungle gym. Meg says it’s okay, but her definition of okay is forgetting to buy groceries or take out the trash or feed the pets for weeks on end. I can’t believe I let her take him to New York City.”

Brad looks at him with a soft expression. It’s alien upon his face. “There was nothing you could do, right?”

Nate shrugs. “Not without a court order.”

Brad says, “Your son’s going to be fine. I’ve broken my right arm twice and look at me now.”

Nate nods weakly. Jesus Christ, if his son turns out like Brad it’ll be out of sheer spite, he knows it.

Brad cocks his head. “You’re staring at me.”

“No, no. Just, are you actually trying to be comforting?”

Brad clears his throat and turns to flag down a waiter. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Nate hides a grin.

*

He gets to the office the next day just behind Doc, the company psychologist they’ve had on payroll since a lawsuit in 2003. He’s kind of a grumpy asshole. Nate never expected anybody to go see him when he was first hired, but Doc turned out to be their most overworked employee, because everbody who worked at the company was traumatized.

Doc stops at a vending machine where Ray and Walt are trying to get out a stuck pack of Oreos. “Hey guys, what’s up with Brad?”

“Excuse me?” Walt replies. Ray freezes, arm up the slot. Nate smothers a laugh.

“The interns have been reporting that Brad said hello to them this morning, rather than ‘why are you in my way.’”

Ray sheepishly pulls his arm out of the slot. “Brad contracted a case of manners like a whore gets herpes. What’s that got to do with us?”

Doc raises a brow. “I’m wondering if you drugged him or something.”

Walt snorts. “Last year, when we went into human trials with that drug to make people sweeter, Ray accidentally dosed Brad. Everybody else showed an immediate and profound change towards passivity. Not Brad. If anything he got more irritable.”

Ray nods. “I’m convinced if we shot Brad up with ten kilos of dope he’d continue on as normal.”

Doc sighs. “Well, hell will have frozen over before Brad ever agrees to see me, so I guess we’ll never know.” He spots Nate behind him. “Unless you have any idea?”

Nate coughs. “Morning, Doc, I’m afraid I don’t.”

*

He and Brad fuck three times that day, not including the awkward suckjob that was abruptly aborted when the biohazard alarms went off. Nate only freaks out about his son and his broken arm on two distinct occasions. He still gets done everything he needs to. Brad says it’s a testament to how awesome they are that at the end of the day, they aren’t taking any work home.

Nate clears his throat. “You take work home even when we’re way ahead of schedule.” He’s lazing on the sofa in his office, clothes in complete disarray. Brad checks his e-mail on his palm pre lying on Nate’s floor. His shirt’s open and it’s easy for Nate to drop his hand down and skim his fingertips over the abating line of a flush.

“When is your son coming home?” Brad asks.

Nate hesitates. It’s the unspoken end of…whatever it is they’re doing. “I pick him up from the airport after work on Monday.”

Brad looks at him with that inscrutable expression of his and then rolls to his feet, stowing his cellphone in his pocket. “Very good,” he says brusquely, doing up the buttons on his shirt. “I have meetings for the rest of the day, but there’s a Cubs game on tonight. Any interest?”

Nate smiles. “I didn’t know you watched sports.” He sits up. “Actually, I didn’t know you did anything for fun.”

“I surf.”

Nate goes over to his desk to organize some papers, not bothering to put himself back together. “What, like on Lake Michigan?”

“On occasion.”

“Well, you’re just full of surprises.”

Brad bends to kiss Nate on the nose. “I know. Was that a yes by the way?” Nate nods and Brad walks out the door without a backwards glance. Jesus Christ. Doc was right. Brad is acting like he’s on drugs.

He gets an e-mail while he’s working on the expense report for the damage the hip hop shoes caused to the building. “Be there at 8, 5602, Grand Plaza Apartments, the doorman will expect you,” is all it says. Of course Brad lives in the Grand Plaza.

*

Fifteen minutes before Nate is set to leave, somebody in Schwetje’s department accidentally breaks a test tube containing a proto-organism that assembles and propogates in a fashion similar to Kudzu. The lab was unfortunately experimenting with the acceleration of the organism’s proliferation and dispersion.

Turns out Trombley is claustrophobic and Ray has to gag him and dose him with tranquilizers. Walt tells Nate it’s better not to ask how Ray had those on hand.

“Just promise he’s not a serial rapist,” Nate replies as they crawl down a hallway rapidly closing off from the expanding pink gooey vines.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Y’know, I can hear you,” Ray shouts back over his shoulder. “What do you mean, ‘I don’t think so?’ Walt, where’s the love, man?”

“I had to listen to you talk about how inherently sexual schoolgirl uniforms are after we ran into that catholic school contingent at Chipotle. I love you, man, but you’re a creep.”

It takes nearly two hours to get everybody above the 20th floor out of the building. Nate seriously considers bringing his two weeks notice with him when he goes to see Brad. Brad’s doorman has the good grace not to comment on Nate’s completely ruined suit, the cut he has across his face, or the strong smell of mushrooms.

Brad answers his door in a pair of jeans and a Lakers t-shirt. His feet are bare. It’s the most casual Nate’s ever seen him. His apartment is amazing, a two story penthouse with an entire wall made of windows. Nate barely notices.

“I considered not coming, but my cellphone disappeared in the office infestation.” That’s a lie. Brad’s got one forearm propped on the door as he leans against it and Nate’s staring at it and imagining the muscle and tendons flexing. He’s been thinking about Brad every moment since he got that e-mail. God, he’s so whipped.

Brad looks him over, face wrestling with a smile. “The office infestation? Of what?”

“Where’s your shower?” Nate pushes past him. “Schwetje’s department makes Dan Quayle look like a Nobel prizewinner.”

“Jesus Christ, it’s always them,” Brad replies, shutting the door. “Schwetje must’ve sucked down some serious gravy to get where he is.”

“Pisses you off, huh?” Nate says, he throws his mutilated sports coat aside.

Brad snorts. “If that’s all it took, I would never have worked so hard.”

Nate unbuttons his shirt and shrugs it off his shoulders. He doesn’t miss the way Brad’s eyes narrow in on him. “Right. Where’s your shower, Brad?”

Brad decides Nate might get lost on the way to the shower, and then he might drown in it. Obviously he has to stay and protect Nate. Nate doesn’t mind. Brad’s shower is proof there is a god. There are two showerheads and a bench. He languishes under the tap, hair falling into his eyes, while Brad soaps himself down under the other tap. Watching the water sluice down over his muscles is mesmerizing. Nate turns around, bracing his palms against the shower wall, because if he keeps watching Brad, they’ll miss the entire game.

Brad sidles up behind him, wet skin sliding together in a way that makes Nate close his eyes. Brad splays a palm over Nate’s abdomen, fingers running over the dips and grooves in the muscle. “How do you still have time to work out between a kid and work,” he asks, tongue darting out to catch a droplet of water on Nate’s neck.

“He is a work out. Coaching little league, soccer, basketball at the Y, dodging the single moms in the PTA.”

“Single moms, huh, any of them hot?” Brad asks, voice even, but his grip on Nate tightens.

“Eh, yeah, I guess,” he turns around to draw Brad’s head down, kissing him under the spray. Brad’s hard cock bobs against Nate’s thigh. “You’re rapacious.”

“You majored in English, didn’t you,” Brad says, mock disdainful.

Nate slides a hand between them, gripping their dicks together. “Classics, actually.”

Brad chuckles unevenly, breath hitching as Nate begins to stroke. “That’s not actually better.”

His hips roll up into Nate’s hand and Nate sighs. There’s something lazy about it, like there’s no rush, they’re just touching each other because they can. The water has reduced all the friction, making everything slippery and sensitive. Brad kneads one of his ass cheeks, fingers dipping into the crease to circle around Nate’s hole. Nate drops his head to Brad’s shoulder with a moan, hand slowing. Brad reminds him of his purpose by nipping at the muscle that runs from shoulder to skull. Nate shudders, breathing wetly into Brad’s skin. He picks up the pace, putting his entire body behind it. He thumbs at Brad’s cockhead, his own dick skidding over the muscle of Brad’s stomach. Their moans echo in the small space, amplified like cheap pornography.

He comes when Brad bites down on his shoulder, hard enough that Nate’s glad his shirt collar will cover it. He jerks in the circle of Brad’s arms, dick spurting out come like it’s been a long time, not just a little over four hours. Brad turns him around, grabbing Nate’s palms and laying them against the shower tile. He thrusts between Nate’s ass cheeks, dick hitting the back of his balls in a way that makes him see stars, dick giving a half-hearted twitch. Brad moves slowly, like he has all the time in the world. Nate just closes his eyes and listens to him breathe, waiting for that little hitch of breath that will give Brad away.

Brad comes barely a minute later, pressed as close up to Nate as he can get. Nate brings Brad’s hand up to his mouth, kissing the back of it. He feels the swift pounding of Brad’s heart slow against his back and smiles.

“Do you think the game is still going on?” he asks, dreamily.

Brad blinks and shrugs. Brad’s eyelashes skim across the nape of his neck. After a moment he says, “I don’t watch Baseball.”

“Of course you don’t.”

*

He wakes up before Brad for the first time. Brad’s mattress is a board and Nate’s back protests as he rolls out of bed. He collects his ruined suit and considers leaving Brad a note, but he’s afraid that that implies something Brad hasn’t asked for. He gets back to his house and decides to take a run along Lakeshore drive on the Lakefront trail. It’s the weekend and he doesn’t have anywhere to be. He hasn’t found the time to run out there since before his wife left him.

He has to share the path with bikers, rollerbladers, and casual strollers, but it’s a nice morning with a slight breeze. He doesn’t mind calling out ‘on your left’ occasionally. He runs from the Shedd Aquarium, past Navy Pier, and then he stops to get a quick breakfast of a soft pretzel at a street vendor. The surfers are out this morning, cutting through the waves. Nate wonders if Brad considered going out, or if he had better things to do. He wonders if Brad is any good. Probably. Brad doesn’t do anything he isn’t good at.

He sits down at a bench to eat and suddenly it’s all too real. His kid is coming back in a few days and he’s having an affair with his boss. He’s pretty sure this is not what Poke and Ray meant when they told him he shouldn’t mope over his son hanging out with his hosebitch ex-wife. This could mean terrible things at the company. For him, for his underlings, for Brad. He knows they would never fire him, he has the highest employee satisfaction rating of any VP in the company. But it would be the perfect reason to deny him a pay raise for the next ten years, or to stick his team with all the unethical projects nobody ever wants for fear of being brought before the International Court of Law to answer for human rights violations.

He doesn’t even know what Brad was thinking—why he wanted Nate or what he wanted out of their affair. They haven’t talked about it, and Nate hasn’t dwelled upon it because he just assumed it was ending, but now he’s not sure he wants it too.

Crazy. Nate hasn’t done a single crazy thing in his life. He married Meg because they’d been together for four years, and he took this job because he needed to support a growing family. They moved to Chicago because Meg wanted to live in a city, but she wanted it to be kid-friendly. He went to Dartmouth because that’s where his father went and that’s where he wanted Nate to go. He’s never acted on a whim in his entire life, which is why it’s so shocking that he didn’t even know he was swimming off into uncharted waters until he’d completely lost sight of the shore. There is no payout to this thing. No advantage to his kid, or to Nate. Just as well that this was it. He throws his breakfast away half-eaten, watching as seagulls swooped down to pick it apart. What a mess.

He makes the run back to his car feeling like a stone is bouncing around in his stomach.

*

He spends the rest of the weekend at his house. He’s so far ahead on his work, there’s nothing left to do, and he doubts Brad was bluffing when he said the company would fire people if Nate continued to do the job of his entire department single-handedly. He’s full of excess sexual energy. There’s only so many times a man can jerk off. He mows the lawn in the front and back, reorganizes his closet, boxes up tons of Justin’s old clothes to take to the Salvation Army. He cleans the entire house, top to bottom and restocks the fridge. The entire time he thinks about Brad pushing into him, holding his hips down, teeth grazing over Nate’s nipples while he moaned shallowly. It’s a problem.

He throws himself into working out, going running again on Lakeshore, hitting the gym, playing basketball in the park with the other dads. At the end of the weekend he’s seriously considering doing an Iron Man Triathlon because that seems to be the only way to offload all the extra fire he’s suddenly brimming with.

When he finally goes back to work on Monday he worries about what he’s going to do when he sees Brad. Jump him, shove him into a supply closet, kiss him until his lips feel numb and sore, and then drop down to his knees to take him into his mouth. Or something like that.

“You’re red as a lobster, homes,” Poke says in the elevator, interrupting his thought process. “You didn’t get sick over the weekend did you?”

Nate breathes out through his nose. “I assure you, I’m quite well.”

He doesn’t see Brad at all. Not at lunch, not at the coffee table. Brad doesn’t come down to the lab. He’s not lurking in front of the elevators, or subtly intimidating the office workers because he thinks it makes their productivity go up. Somewhere after Eleven AM, Nate starts to go insane. He jams a staple into his stapler just so he can work it out again.

Poke stops by his office after he misses lunch. “Okay, you’re getting your kid back today and you’re moping like a little boy who just learned he had to leave the theme park.”

Nate shrugs and shifts some papers around on his desk.

“You aren’t all depressed because you don’t have any work left to do, are you?” Nate shoots him a look and Poke raises his hands. “Just if you are, be a man and practice your golf game for the rest of the day rather than driving us nuts.”

When Poke leaves he drops his head to his desk with a groan. He wants to curse Brad for ever dragging him out of the office on those stupid dinner dates.

*

Picking Justin up makes things better. He’s the last to get off the plane and he walks hand in hand with a tall shapely flight attendant, puffing up his chest so that the ‘unaccompanied minor’ button is on display. His cast is bright blue and already filled with signatures. The look on his face tells Nate he’s been reaping the rewards of having a broken arm on a flight full of bored flight attendants. Nate shakes his head, where did he go wrong? When he finally gets close enough, Justin breaks free of the flight attendant’s grip and launches himself at Nate, shouting “Dad.” Nate hugs him close, glad to have his son back.

“Here you go, Mr. Fick,” the flight attendant says, handing over Justin’s Transformers themed suitcase. Nate smiles and takes it. She looks him over with obvious interest. It’s the whole young, single dad thing. He’s not interested. He never is. He’s only interested in his psycho workaholic boss. Because life hates Nate.

“Thanks so much,” he replies and grabs Justin’s hand, leading him out of the airport terminal.

He takes Justin to Ed Debevic’s, because it’s his favorite restaurant and he’s not above a little bribery of his own. He lets Justin feed an entire roll of quarters into the jukebox machine at their table and pretends to be glad when the Partridge Family comes on. God, he’s going to kill Meg.

“Is your cell-phone off, Dad?”

Nate cocks his head. “No, why?”

“It should be off at dinner, Mom said so. She said you work too much.”

Nate’s going to kill Meg and then give her body to Ray and Walt to perform experiments on. “Do you feel like you don’t see me enough?”

Justin shakes his head. “Nope.”

Nate laughs. “Maybe you’d like to see me a little less, huh?”

Justin shakes his head again. “No, I see you just right.”

“Well then, I think I work just right too.”

Justin is distracted from arguing further by the arrival of two massive hamburgers, extra thick milkshakes, and a plate of cheese fries that could single-handedly cause an obesity epidemic. He is beside himself with the possibilities. Nate wishes he could take a picture.

*

It’s only 8 PM when they get back so Nate agrees to let Justin watch TV. Justin explains he hasn’t had a chance to watch Glee or House, MD at all since he went to New York City.

“Now that’s depressing,” Nate replies, taking Justin’s stuff to the laundry room.

“Don’t be sarcastic, Dad, it doesn’t suit you,” Justin calls out.

“Why’s that?” Nate calls back.

Justin waits a moment and says, “Something about being weak-minded! I don’t know, sarcasm is dumb.”

Did his son just try to quote Dostoevsky at him? Now he understands why his parents were so gleeful when he told them he was having a son. He goes back out into the family room and gathers Justin up into a hug.

“Dad! What are you doing!” Justin struggles. “I already hugged you once today.”

“I need another,” Nate replies, tickling Justin’s sides. Justin squeals, writhing in Nate’s arms as Nate tickles him viciously.

“Stop, stop, stop!” Justin cries between laughs.

“What’s the magic word!”

“Please, Dad!” Nate lets Justin go and Justin takes deep gasping breaths. “You better watch out. When I’m bigger, I’m going to get you back.”

“I live in wait.”

Justin sticks his tongue out and then he cocks his head, staring at something over Nate’s shoulder. “Somebody’s on the porch.”

Nate turns around. The security lights have gone off outside. “Wait here,” he says to Justin. Justin shrugs and turns back to the tv, turning up the volume.

He opens the front door and finds Brad standing at the base of the front steps, hands in the pockets’ of his Burberry trench. Nate steps outside and shuts the door behind him. The night’s gone chilly and it looks like it might rain. He shivers despite himself.

“Why are you here?” he asks, voice soft.

Brad stares up at him, gaze even. “I don’t know.”

Nate smiles. He knows the feeling. “Do you want to come in?”

Brad smiles back. “You already know the answer to that.”

They go back inside the house, Nate aware of Brad’s eyes on his back the entire time. He can’t say he minds the sensation. He gestures at the closet for Brad to hang up his coat, and then sits on the armrest of the couch. “Justin, this is my boss, Brad.”

Justin mutes the TV. “The boss you said was ‘morally dubious?’”

Brad snorts and Nate bites at his lower lip, hiding a laugh. “Yes, that would be the one.”

“Oh,” Justin replies, seemingly at a loss. “Well, nice to meet you.”

Nate clears his throat. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“A coke,” Justin replies, eyes never leaving the screen.

Nate pokes Justin in the side. “Not you. You can get it yourself. Aaaand, you’ve had enough sugar tonight.” He looks back up at Brad who’s laughing at him with his eyes.

“Sparkling water, if you have it,” is all he says.

Nate putters about in the kitchen while Brad watches him, still in his suit from work. God that turns Nate’s crank. It actually takes effort to remember where he puts his water glasses.

“It’s funny. You talk to Ray and Walt exactly the same way you do to your son,” Brad tells him, leaning up against the kitchen counter.

“They are about the combined mental age of an eight year old,” Nate replies, pulling open the fridge door and rooting around for the Crystal Geyser he just bought. When he finally finds it, Brad comes up behind him and takes the bottle out of his hand, setting it on the counter. He drops a kiss just below Nate’s ear and Nate turns his head to reach his mouth. Their lips slot together perfectly, tongues just barely touching. Brad smoothes a hand down Nate’s arm, stopping to tangle their fingers together, and Nate bites down on Brad’s lip in surprise. It’s a tender gesture, one he didn’t know Brad was capable of. Nate draws away, breathing hard.

“Just let me put him to bed,” he says, knowing his cheeks are flushed bright red.

Brad’s eyes are half-lidded and dark, but the corner of his lips quirk up into a smile, and he backs off with raised palms.

*

It only takes an hour to get Justin into bed but it feels like the longest hour on the planet. Brad seems perfectly content to read the newspaper in his living room, while Nate tells Justin a bedtime story, and then sings him a Beatles song and finally cracks the door at just the right angle so that the light comes through.

By the time he and Brad make it back to his bedroom Nate is aching for it. He locks the door behind them both, and then Brad is behind him again, lips grazing over his neck, unhooking the buttons of his shirt. Nate leans back against him, head dropping to Brad’s shoulder. God he missed this. Nothing about it requires effort, unlike the rest of his life. Which is crazy, because half the time it’s Brad that makes his job so difficult.

“I want you to fuck me,” Brad says, slowly, resting his chin on Nate’s shoulder. His thumb plays over and over the line of hair disappearing into Nate’s pants.

Nate shifts in his arms, not sure he’s hearing Brad right. “Are you—”

“Yes.”

He turns around and presses a kiss to Brad’s closed mouth. The look on his face tells Nate Brad’s resolved to do it, but he hasn’t quite decided if he likes the idea. He’s seen that look on Brad’s face many a time with upstairs.

He pushes Brad back on the bed, crawling up the mattress to straddle Brad’s hips. Brad leans up to catch Nate’s mouth as he unbuttons Brad’s dress shirt. The knot on Brad’s tie is more tricky, but it comes apart under his fingers. “I’m not going to fuck you,” he says, dropping a kiss to the center of Brad’s chest.

“Nate…”

Nate slides to the left to flick his tongue on Brad’s nipple, closing his teeth around it when Brad’s hips jerk up against him. “Not tonight.” Brad doesn’t have to do this to keep him. They really should’ve talked about this whole thing. But for now, it can wait.

They fuck slowly, Nate on top, hand’s braced on Brad’s chest so that he can control the pace. Brad is nearly silent throughout, but his fingers tighten on Nate’s hips with every downward thrust, every slow scraping grind. He holds Nate’s gaze like he’s seeing him for the first time. Nate slides his thumb across Brad’s lower lip and Brad sucks it into his mouth. It makes Nate moan and still for a second. Brad flexes his hips to remind him of his purpose, pushing deep into Nate, hitting his prostate on the way in. Nate hisses, head dropping between his shoulders. It’s not going to take much more. He wraps a loose fist around his dick, jerking himself off as he raises himself up and down. He doesn’t have to imagine this, the way he’s using Brad’s body to take his own pleasure, the way Brad is looking up at him like that’s the only thing in the world he wants.

Eventually it’s too much and he comes with a moan he has to muffle into his own shoulder. Brad waits a long moment, smoothing his palms up and down Nate’s thighs, before rolling them both over so that he’s on top. He thrusts into Nate, as far in as he can go, and Nate cries out, overstimulated.

Brad muffles him with his mouth, kissing him sloppily, spit everywhere, as he pushes himself to his own orgasm. Just before he comes he tears his mouth away, staring down at Nate with unreadable eyes. With a simple exhale he orgasms, hips finally stilling. He collapses down on top of Nate, carefully easing himself out. Nate shudders, empty.

“Shit,” Brad says, voice soft. “Shit.”

Nate doesn’t let him go.

*

Nate gets up for his morning run to find Brad still lying beside him. He smiles and stretches, slipping into a pair of shorts and his running shoes. He flies over the pavement this morning. It’s only six AM and in a little bit he’ll have to get Justin to school and himself to work, but he feels filled with energy. He sprints the last block home, and stops, triumphant, in front of their house. Brad’s Spyker is still parked in the driveway. Nate stops for a moment just to breathe.

The paper sits on the front steps and he picks it up as he goes inside. There are voices coming from the kitchen. He stops just beyond the doorway to listen.

“Do you like my dad?” Justin asks.

Brad replies, “He’s a very competent employee.”

Justin sighs. “No I mean, do you want to kiss my dad?”

Nate has to smother a laugh at the sudden silence in the room. Brad finally clears his throat and then says, “I do.”

Justin says, “No funny business then.”

“I break your dad’s heart, you break my knee caps?” Nate hears the laughter in Brad’s voice.

“Something like that.”

Nate walks into the kitchen. “Good morning.” Justin and Brad sit at opposite ends of the kitchen table, each eating a bowl of lucky charms. Brad’s already perfectly dressed in another suit. One that isn’t the same one he wore last night. Where did he even stash it?

“Morning, Dad,” Justin replies. Nate ruffles his hair and watches Justin stick out his tongue in disgust. He hands Brad the newspaper and bends to kiss him on the cheek. Brad accepts it with much better grace. Justin sticks out his tongue again. “Disgusting, two guys kissing.”

Brad laughs. He looks up at Nate. “Are you ready to go in for work?”

Nate snorts. “Never.”

*

Fin

Notes:

Kelsey Grammar’s character has Welcome Aboard tattooed to his penis in Down Periscope.

Spyker is not a typo. They’re the Dutch manufacturer who recently acquired Saab. In the Netherlands it’s spelled Spijker.


I decided this was Brad's apartment. Only I think he’d get a better interior decorator than that.
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